By Dr. Annika
The problem with small bad habits is that they can cause repetitive microtrauma.
I can literally see the question marks coming out of your ears!
Let me tell you what happened to me a couple of years ago: I bought a new car! Which was wonderful and exciting. The first thing I did notice was that the headrest seemed to place my head in a very forward position compared to what I was used to (I often drive along pushing the back of my head into the headrest to improve my posture while driving and getting a little stretching/strengthening done at the same time). However, all the other cars I tried had the same arrangement, and everything else was perfect, so I went ahead and bought it anyway.
I have had regular adjustments since I was 16, so my spine has always been very flexible and relatively easy to adjust. But about 6 months after the new car purchase, my upper back was incredibly stiff and became very hard to adjust. After a few of these incidents, we identified the new car as the culprit.
Solution? A small, square pillow behind my shoulderblades that would just put my body far enough forward for me to be able to sit upright in the car seat. Within a couple of weeks, my spine was back to its happy self.
So often when we think of injuries, we think of the spectacular kind, be it sporting or traffic, for example, with big wrenches or impacts. But for most of us, the injuries we acquire are doing something a little unhelpful a lot of the time. The body adapts itself to the use we put it through, to be more efficient at doing what we ask it to do. But the long-term consequences can be painful.
So what other examples do we have?
- Sitting on your wallet.
- Carrying your handbag on the same shoulder all the time.
- Carrying your child on the same hip all the time – this isn’t good for mum or bub! Babies should ideally be carried on your front or back in a sling, with the knees higher than their hips.
- Looking down as you breastfeed your child. – This is actually extremely important to do. So as often as you can, just set yourself up comfortably with pillows so your neck is supported as you are feeding.
- Feeding baby on the same side every time (when bottle feeding). This is important for the baby! When you breastfeed, Baby gets to turn his/her head each way during each feed, and so activates and stretches muscles and the spine symmetrically. This does not usually happen when a baby is bottle fed.
- Sleeping on your front.
- Resting your head in your hand.
- Sitting with your legs crossed (this tends to always be the same way too).
- Squeezing the phone between your ear and your shoulder.
- Text Neck: Sitting with your head forward as you look at your phone. This one is MASSIVE – especially for our young ones. Restrict screen time for everyone’s sake, and hold the phone up to eye level.
- Not resting your wrists as you type.
- One-sided sports.
- Playing one-sided instruments like the violin.
- Bending over while gardening for hours.
- ….. and so on.
So some of these have obvious solutions, some don’t. Most of us have a dominant side, and playing a sport or an instrument on both sides would be quite a feat indeed. So what you can do is find ways to help your body cope – regular chiropractic and massage are obvious choices. And things like yoga or pilates or T’ai Chi, where the body is stretched and strengthened in different positions and in a symmetrical way (as much as your body allows) are also really helpful. But most of all, break the bad habits and get better ones. A lot of the time, it’s as easy as finding a small pillow to put behind your back.